2013 Colorado legislation (HB13-1044): Consumptive use challenge on the horizon if the bill passes?

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Patrick Malone):

Sometime in the next three to five weeks, with the flip of a single valve, toilet tanks in the residence hall will fill with recycled water, a testament to [researchers Larry] Roesner and [Sybil] Sharvelle’s work.

“We are very anxious for that first flush,” Roesner said. “We are ready to flush the toilet, but we’re taking some final tests to make sure it’s OK.”

The conversation around gray water in Colorado also faces a new test.

A gray water bill by state Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, has undergone some fine-tuning and appears poised to pass after a similar measure met swift defeat last year. This year’s incarnation faces its first hurdle Monday in the House Agriculture Committee that Fischer chairs.

Fischer’s bill would recognize gray water systems as legal in statute, enable regulation of them to protect public health and grant cities and counties discretion to permit them — or not, if they so choose…

“We can save about 50 percent of the indoor demand by using gray water for toilet flushing, and we can save about 30 percent of overall annual demand by gray-water reuse,” Roesner said. “A household of four could save 58,000 gallons a year using gray water, and a 40-home subdivision would save over 2 million gallons a year.”

“There are not many other conservation practices that would allow you to achieve those types of conservation benefits,” Fischer said.

But that wasn’t enough to get a proposal off the ground at the Legislature last year. In its first committee hearing, Republicans killed it on a party-line vote.

“It’s been interesting, because it seems like a relatively simple idea, yet it’s been so difficult to achieve in legislation,” Fischer said.

Opponents of last year’s version of the bill say concerns that proliferation of gray water systems would harm downstream water-rights holders — not partisan politics — torpedoed Fischer’s first bid.

“That has always been my concern, how it affects downstream water users,” said agriculturally-oriented Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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